WASHINGTON — Jimmie D. Hill, 79, the former longtime deputy director of the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) who helped oversee the agency’s transition to the post Cold War era, died April 23 at his home in Spotsylvania, Va.

The cause was complications from lung cancer, according to his wife, Martha Hill.

Hill served a total of 29 years at the NRO, including 14 as deputy director, from April 1982 to February 1996. He also served as staff director, from 1978 to 1982, and two brief stints as acting director of the agency, which builds and operates the nation’s classified spy satellites.

Widely known for his deep institutional knowledge of NRO programs and highly decorated for his service, Hill made headlines on Feb. 26, 1996, when he was sacked, along with then-NRO Director Jeffrey K. Harris, by then-Defense Secretary William Perry and Director of Central Intelligence John Deutch. The dismissals, which were highly controversial in the space-intelligence community, followed revelations that the NRO’s coffers were filled with millions of dollars in unspent funds appropriated for various programs.

Jimmie Dale Hill was born Dec. 28, 1933, in Fort Worth, Texas. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1951 and was commissioned as an officer in 1960, eventually rising to the rank of major, according to a biography prepared by the Office of the NRO historian.

Hill studied math, business and accounting at various colleges and universities on and off from 1955 through 1964, according to the biography.

From 1966-1971, Hill was assigned to the Secretary of the Air Force’s Special Projects Office in El Segundo, Calif., according to the biography. That activity comprised Program A at the NRO, which was responsible for gathering imagery, according to declassified NRO records. In 1971 Hill was transferred to the Office of the Undersecretary of the Air Force and the NRO here, assigned to Program B, the CIA’s element of the NRO programs, according to the biography.

After retiring from the Air Force in 1974, Hill was appointed NRO comptroller and special assistant to the undersecretary of the Air Force. He became director of the Office of Space Systems in the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force in1978, a position that also made him the NRO staff director, according to the biography.

Hill’s Air Force awards include the Legion of Merit and the Meritorious Service medal. His awards as an Air Force civilian include the Presidential Rank Award of Distinguished Executive, the Department of Defense Distinguished Civilian Service Award and the National Intelligence Distinguished Service medal.

Hill is survived by his wife of 57 years, Martha, a son, William, and three daughters: Loretta Hill, Carol Alexander and Patricia Parkitny. Other survivors include six grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

Warren Ferster is the Editor-in-Chief of SpaceNews and is responsible for all the news and editorial coverage in the weekly newspaper, the spacenews.com Web site and variety of specialty publications such as show dailies. He manages a staff of seven reporters...